When Jeff Bohnert’s 13-year-old mixed poodle went missing on June 9, the last place he expected her to be in was Missouri’s second-largest cave system nearly two months later. His beloved pet, Abby, was found by a group of casual cavers deep within the Berome Moore cave. She could have spent months alone underground and “was skin and bones,” when they found her, says experienced caver Rick Haley. Covered in dirt and curled up in a ball, the poor old gal could only barely lift her head.
Haley and Gerry Keene were part of a team with about 30 members mapping out the cave for the Cave Research Foundation (CRF). When Keene saw Abby about 500 feet underground, he quickly took a picture and made his way out of the complicated cave system to get some help. He alerted other CRF members, including Haley, and contacted Assistant Fire Chief Rob Calhoun, who visited many locals’ homes to share the image in hopes of someone recognizing her.
“I have rescued dogs out of caves before, but those dogs weren’t there for long and could be walked out,” Haley notes. Knowing he needed to find a way to safely take her out, he grabbed an empty duffle bag and lined it with a fluffy blanket. When the two cavers found her again, she surprised them by getting in the bag by herself. Having been in a cave that is “very wet” and about “58 degrees or so,” it’s no wonder the pooch sought out any sort of comfort she could. Abby seemed calm and almost fell asleep in the bag as they zipped her up, securing her safety in the journey back up to the surface.
Above ground, Calhoun was going door-to-door, sharing the image with neighbors. Someone finally recognized her and pointed the search team in the direction of Bohnert, who shared it was “surprising when we started to hear news about a dog in the cave that kinda started meeting Abby’s description.” He saw the picture Keene took and said, “Oh my goodness, that’s Abby. How could this even be…how can she…still be alive?”
As Bohnert was making his way to the site, Haley and Keene made their way through the narrow, complicated cave system with their doggy duffle bag. They took turns crawling in front of each other, each time reaching back to grab Abby. Over an hour later, the trio emerged from the darkness, with Bohnert waiting for her. The pup’s pupils needed some time to readjust to the sunlight after such s prolonged period of time in the darkness. Once they reached ground level, Abby was quickly assessed for any injuries. Luckily, she was found to be good enough to go back home with her human.
How the old gal got so far into the cave is still unclear. Haley returned to the site a few days later and found her paw prints by the entrance she most likely fell through—a 12-foot-deep pit. He believes she could have been chasing a small animal and that heavy rainfall flooded the pit, both potentially causing Abby to be pushed deeper into the system. One thing is for sure: it’s a miracle that these cavers found her. “I happened to be one of the only people on the surface at the time that the rescue needed to happen,” Haley recalls. “[If] there had been all 30 of those cavers there, you would have found 30 people facilitating this rescue.”
Abby is now being nursed back to health by her family. Bohnert says that she’s barking again, even though “it’s a little hoarse…she probably did a lot of barking trying to get somebody’s attention down there.” Haley also noted her barking when he saw her a week later, adding, “I think she’s getting back to herself now.”
You can read Haley's firsthand experience in a brief post about the rescue mission on Facebook.
A 13-year-old mixed-poodle named Abby went missing on June 9. The last place her owner Jeff Bohnert expected to find her was 500 feet underground.
When a group of cavers found her, she was just “skin and bones” and could barely lift her head. They took her picture and headed back up for help.
Rick Haley and Gerry Keene, experienced cavers, quickly got to work planning a rescue mission for the pup. They came back with an empty duffle bag, lined with a fluffy blanket, which she climbed into.
Haley and Keene made the vertical journey through the narrow, complicated cave system. For over an hour, they took turns crawling in front of each other, reaching back to grab the doggy duffle bag.
Above ground, Bohnert heard news of a dog that fit Abby's description. It had been two months since she had gone missing, and be didn't expect her to be alive.
The team didn't find any injuries on Abby and she was cleared to go home with her family. She's still recovering, but seems to be “getting back to herself now.”